High-flying Borussia Dortmund will look to extend their fine run of form on Friday as they host Stuttgart in the Bundesliga.
The European vice champions earned impressive wins away to Arsenal in the Champions League and to arch-rivals Schalke in the Bundesliga in their last two fixtures. And with the return leg with Arsenal set to be played five days later, BVB will be keen to maintain their level with a good show against VfB.
The Swabians are no pushovers; last season, they held BVB to a draw in the fall and nearly repeated the feat in March.
Dortmund will have to be sharp if they are to take three points and reclaim first place in the Bundesliga table, if only for a day.
Goalkeeper: Roman Weidenfeller
Especially with captain Sebastian Kehl unlikely to start in midfield, deputy skipper Roman Weidenfeller is unlikely to get any rest. The goalkeeper plays a key role not only between the posts but as a leader on the pitch. He has more experience than any of his fully fit teammates and his natural leadership will be a big asset against VfB.
Right-Back: Kevin Grosskreutz
Kevin Grosskreutz may still be on his way down from his derby-induced adrenaline high by the time the Stuttgart match kicks off, so he'll be geared up for the task that awaits.
Lukasz Piszczek is slowly training his way back into shape but is still a long way from being ready to make his return to action following multiple operations. For the time being, Grosskreutz will keep his starting role at right-back.
Center-Back: Neven Subotic
Neven Subotic conceded a penalty in the Schalke match, and if there is one BVB center-back who will lose his starting spot this weekend, it's the Serb.
But expect Jurgen Klopp to stand by Subotic. He'll likely field the same back four against Stuttgart that he'll use against Arsenal in the Champions League a few days later and now is too close to that match to make any drastic changes. One slip-up won't lose Subotic his spot in the XI.
Center-Back: Mats Hummels
Mats Hummels was the subject of criticism earlier this season, but since receiving the first red card of his career, he has found the form that made him the Bundesliga's best center-back in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Hummels is by no means ailing from playing too many matches and will be eager to build on his good form.
Left-Back: Marcel Schmelzer
Dortmund fans were given a scare when Marcel Schmelzer, just days after returning from a hamstring tear, was replaced at halftime of last Saturday's Ruhr derby with Schalke. It turned out that the 25-year-old had only taken a minor knock to his shin and was withdrawn to avoid damage beyond the contusion he took. Schmelzer is expected to be fit to face Stuttgart.
Defensive Midfield: Sven Bender
Dortmund's injury crisis in midfield has eased as of late, which is welcome news for workhorse Sven Bender.
Sebastian Kehl returned to training a week ago, but given his advanced age, he will likely not be thrown back into competition. Expect Bender to start, with Kehl as his potential replacement in the second half should the 24-year-old grow weary.
Defensive Midfield: Nuri Sahin
Nuri Sahin's last two appearances have been arguably his top two since returning to Dortmund in January.
The 25-year-old was magnificent in wins away to Arsenal and Schalke, and his brilliant form will see him start again. Sahin's class has been hugely important for BVB in the absence of injured midfield linchpin Ilkay Gundogan.
As long as the Turkish international continues to perform at such a high level, BVB won't have to rush to bring Gundogan back into first-team action.
Right Wing: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Both Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Jakub Blaszczykowski scored against Schalke and both can make a strong appeal for Klopp to start them. Aubameyang was a bit more lively than Kuba in the first Arsenal fixture a little over a week ago, so the Gabon international may have a slight edge for now.
Central Attacking Midfield: Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Like Sahin, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has experienced a great run of form in recent days. The Armenian international scored against Arsenal, then gave two assists and played a key role in a third goal against Schalke. Much was expected of Dortmund's record signing when he moved to the Ruhr area, and he's now beginning to show it. Now in top form, he's sure to start against Stuttgart.
Left Wing: Marco Reus
Jurgen Klopp has been careful to limit Marco Reus' minutes this season; the 24-year-old has only played the full 90 minutes on three occasions in the Bundesliga.
But even if he's likely to be withdrawn at some point in the second half, the German international can expect to start. He's been the best player in the Bundesliga this season, according to Kicker, and BVB rely on him to provide brilliance on a week-in, week-out basis.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski
Robert Lewandowski was largely kept under wraps in last Saturday's Ruhr derby, and the Polish international will be keen to find his scoring touch in Dortmund's dress rehearsal for their Champions League clash with Arsenal.
Klopp has been given little reason to have confidence in backup strikers Julian Schieber and Marvin Ducksch, and the trainer will want morale to be at a high ahead of the Arsenal match. Lewandowski will start.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!